This week, I take a look at the collaborations permeating across the beauty industry, as discussed during the Glossy Beauty Summit.
As the adage goes: A rising tide lifts all boats. And nowhere was this sentiment more present this past week than during the Glossy Beauty Summit in Palm Springs, California when collaborations became a central focus.
As speakers and attendees shared their current strategies and challenges, some themes that emerged during the event included supply chain headaches, livestream shopping and attempts to reach Gen Z. But collaborations also stood out as a major through-line. The takeaways: Collaborations are taking shape in multiple ways beyond the typical surprise-and-delight tactics. And beauty companies are using them to further their brand development, grow their retail presence and celebrate their brand differences.
Ongoing business collaborations are trending. For example, biotech and beauty company Amyris Inc. recently built up its portfolio entirely through collaborations. They include JVN Hair with Jonathan Van Ness and Rose Inc. with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Caroline Hadfield, Rose Inc. CEO, said that the brand is a combination of Huntington-Whiteley’s 20-year beauty knowledge and the proprietary clean ingredients of Amyris, such as squalane. Meanwhile, The Inkey List partnered with skin-care influencer Hyram Yarbro to launch Selfless by Hyram, providing both parties an opportunity to leverage each other’s strengths and further build credibility individually.
“I could only have done so much creating a brand by itself without the experience that [The Inkey List] had to offer, [such as] its incredible connections in the industry and access to suppliers and manufacturers,” said Yarbro.
The Inkey List already had access to younger customers through its Sephora partnership, as well as via its DTC e-commerce site and TikTok presence. But Colette Laxton, co-founder and CEO of The Inkey List, described Selfless as a “more focused approach” for reaching Gen Zers.
Reaching Gen Zers is not the only reason brands are launching collaborations. Still, it is one of the biggest motivators. Take Ulta Beauty with Target and Walmart with P&G. Ulta Beauty has 100 shop-in-shops within Target locations. Both retailers already over-index with Gen Z, but wanted to continue cementing their position as Gen-Z favorites.
“It was important to create something digestible and curated so that it was easy for our guests to shop,” said Monica Arnaudo, chief merchandising officer at Ulta Beauty. “We sat with Cassandra Jones [vp and gm of beauty at Target], and we cooked this up together. We have over 50 prestige brands in the mix; it’s a merchant’s dream to start from scratch.”
To co-develop the Walmart and P&G textured hair care brand Nou, the companies had to “reverse engineer” their usual approach, according to Lela Coffey, Procter & Gamble vp of North America hair care and multicultural brands. Instead of building a brand from typical seasoned (i.e., older) P&G executives, the company collaborated with 30 P&G and Walmart Gen-Z employees on the concept for Nou, which launched in August.
“Collaborations are an important way for brands to tap into new audiences that they wouldn’t otherwise have. When you collaborate with either a person or an [intellectual property], you are reimagining what the product looks like through the product design and packaging,” said Ann McFerran, founder and CEO of Glamnetic, which makes magnetic false eyelashes and press-on nails.
In May and August, Glamnetic launched more traditional product collaborations with Hello Kitty and TikTok star Chase Hudson (@LilHuddy, 32.4 million TikTok followers), respectively. The Hello Kitty collaboration was themed around travel, with eyelashes and eyeliner packaged in miniature travel suitcases. Meanwhile, Hudson created nail stickers with Glamnetic. His audience is almost exclusively Gen Z. He invited fellow TikTokers, including Charli D’Amelio, to an L.A. launch party. In support of Hudson, D’Amelio tagged and posted Glamnetic on her feed for free.
“You garner value that you wouldn’t otherwise have through a collaboration by tapping into a [new] audience, especially if you collab with a celebrity,” said McFarren. “If you’re thoughtful about the way you approach collabs, it can drive more value than what you’re investing in.”
But aside from driving value in terms of customer expansion or marketing, collaborations are now also about reaffirming a brand’s values. Malena Higuera, gm of Urban Decay, said the makeup brand has been positively “challenged” by its customers to work with partners that celebrate differences.
She pointed to the brand’s 2021 collaborations with the Prince estate and Marvel studios as exemplary of how prioritizing diversity and breaking molds around gender norms can contribute to more exciting partnerships. She added that considering subcultures can result in more engaged customers, as well. She cited the way each eyeshadow shade of the Marvel palette harkened back to specific shades of superhero uniforms, acting as “Easter eggs” for fans to discover.
“We tried to build in Easter eggs so that the Marvel community — who love to nerd out — will be with us in the [discovery] journey, and [we tried to] make it thoughtful regarding their passion for Marvel,” she said.